The Apollo Program, the Saturn V rocket, and the end of history

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the last manned Luna landing, demarking the history of high-earth orbit to a previous generation.

Yet the Apollo program continues to hold a strange and powerful hold over my imagination – and, I am sure, the imagination of most of my peers. Cameos by Buzz Aldrin feature in films such as Transformers: Dark of the Moon [trailer | clip] and the closing scene of Mass Effect 3, and ‘Moon Shots’ has now become a byword for ‘game changing’ investments.

Planning for failure while shooting for the moon

I studied the Challenger shuttle disaster as part of my Masters degree on Applied Ethics. I am no stranger to the project management – and, as it turns out, occasional project mismanagement – of NASA and its contractors. Yet in researching a recent blog posts, I also came to appreciate how seriously they endeavoured to learn from, and anticipate, their mistakes.[1] NASA’s conservative approach, and the success of that approach, is testimony to the benefits of planning for failure.[2] After each incident, NASA did not simply limit its response to hardware redesign – they also redesigned their very organisation. The mission guidelines for Mercury – one of the stepping-stones to Apollo – reflected their zero scope-creep tolerance, and their outright reject of unnecessary risk.

Europe 2012

I will (hopefully) be traveling to the UK in late August for about three weeks. If you have any suggestions of places I should visit and things I should do, please feel free to add them to my google map (with a brief explanation, and your name if possible).

Alternatively, you can just email me your ideas.

View Europa 2012 in a larger map

Reflections on a brother's wedding

Friday dusk and I wander through my old high school, past cyclone fencing, CCTV cameras, and contemporary stranger danger posters. Being here in these grounds still accelerates my pulse – old memories of the place induce temporal vertigo as they warp to meet reality half way. It is not the first time I have tried to make peace with this place. Groves of native trees and bushes maintained by my permaculture teacher, and which once inspired my green introverted teen-self, are gone: maybe to make supervision easier – maybe because they sacked the permaculture teacher.

I suppose I should be flattered ...

The Reddit community ShitRedditSays recently informed me that I was banned from their forum as it does not "exist for deep, intellectual discussion on a matter." One of their members may have caught sight of my post on  MensRights, (I'm a karma whore, all right?) which is under heavy scrutiny by SRS, and decided that I was ineligible as a candidate for their public shaming program.

I think that this is what a backhanded compliment looks like.

Retired Husband Syndrome, ransacked super funds, and a possible alternative

Japanese marriage laws changed dramatically in 2007 by allowing house-spouses access to their breadwinner’s pension fund. At the time, many media pundits expected this to result in a skyrocketing of divorce rates: that housewives – sickened by the prospect of their Salaryman husbands actually living with them – would opt to take the newly available money and run.[i] The number of unhappy Japanese homemakers, and their loveless marriages, should serve as a warning against making money a cornerstone of a relationship. For doing so may obscure the possibility that the person you are living and breeding with really just wants a patron.

Cascading kudos: a new way of 'liking'

Cascading Kudos is a kind of ‘pyramid scheme of aggregation’, where the creator of content – such as a comic strip, or an article, or photo – continues to get recognition for their work no matter how many people distribute, and redistribute, and re-re-distribute, ad infinitum, their creation.[i] It also ensures that those distributors – including those who frame it in a new light, or add their own commentary to it – also acquire recognition for their curating skills, as people down the line re-post their re-post. Even a thousand re-posts later, everyone upwards – the previous re-poster, all the way to the creator – will still be getting virtual ‘points’. For kudos, like money, always flows up. Under the Cascading Kudos model, everyone wins: creators, talent-finders, cool-hunters, editors, as well as the countless people on Facebook, Twitter, and so forth who ‘share’ a post, link to an article, or ‘Like’ something that is subsequent reshared, retweeted, or ‘reliked’.

The stupidity of the crowds

Last year I had an experience that left me questioning whether technology can enhance our decision-making abilities – or whether it might actually handicap it.

I was on a group wine tour Albury-Wodonga-way with some friends. Our group consisted of CSS and SEO experts, as well as bankers, cyclists and runners, and a geek vibe pervade us all – I was the only member of the group, for instance, who lacked a smart phone, and no one else was afraid to use theirs. Our over-reliance on such tech, however, would quickly prove problematic.

Let them haz cheezburgers?

There is a growing sentiment that technology will save us socially – from first world problems such as boredom, mediocrity and loneliness – and politically, from isolation, repression and exploitation. In a recent article in The Age, for example, Tim Van Gelder discusses his grassroots political site YourView, arguing that crowd-sourcing (facilitating by his site) will help politicians make better-informed decisions.[i] I have already documented some of the risks of using mobile devices to cure our impatience with RL[ii] – yet there are even bigger dangers in expecting the web to solve global injustices and disharmony. There is a pervasive idea amongst the West, for instance, that we helped make the Arab Spring possible with ‘our’ technology. Do we really have the impudence to claim that social networking, video hosting, and microblogging platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter stood down American-manufactured tanks, rather than incredibly courageous Muslim men and women?[iii] It appears so.